Let’s face it – the current economy is not what it used to be. Consumers are finding ways to spend less and do more with their money. They’re buying cheaper, buying used, buying in bulk, or not buying at all. The “economy” driven brands such as WalMart, Target, and Costco are thriving. But how are the luxury brands doing? Someone still has to be buying the expensive stuff, right? Well, when it comes to the golf industry, we could classify public golf courses as the “value driven” brand and private golf courses as the “luxury” brand. Keeping customers in your luxury brand can be a tough challenge during these hard economic times.
A recent article in the October issue of Golf Digest (yes, it’s September 10th and the October issue is already out) featured an article called “The Case for Change at Private Clubs”. This article gave a few stats about the status of private golf courses in the US right now:
- Private clubs lost about one out of every 10 members last year
- Upwards of 1,000 private clubs will close, merge, or go public until the economy stabilizes
The article suggested that “stuffy” private golf clubs put an end to age-old rules that currently stifle their younger membership. Doing so might remove the stigma that private clubs have typically been known for, thus attracting more members. Rules that Jerry Tarde, the Editor-in-Chief of Golf Digest, suggested to be removed were:
- No denim
- No cargo shorts
- No cell phone usage
- Restricted tee times for women and juniors
While not a bad idea, we here at Golf Web Design believe there is an even more effective (and less intrusive) way of getting more members and keeping your current members.
Bring the Social Aspect of Your Club – Online
It’s already happening right now, most notably through Facebook. Your members are already connected to a multitude of online social networks. Why not create YOUR OWN social network and start building your private online community? You can extend the social aspect of your private club from beyond the country club doors right to your members’ living rooms via the Internet. This is truly offering your members an added bonus to their membership. Allow them to connect to each other and start building an online network where they can post questions, upcoming events, pictures, videos, lessons, great experiences the club has provided for them….the possibilities are endless.
Turn Your Website Into a Private Social Media Network
While your members are interacting online – they will talk. And talk is good. They will keep posting news, updates, and upcoming events. They will offer advice and information to help each other. This can bring incredible amounts of credibility to you and your staff. You and your staff can engage with them in this social “mediasphere” and continue to build the private club’s brand and prestige. The best way to keep your current members is to keep them engaged and active with the rest of the club. What better way to extend beyond the reach of the brick-and-mortar establishment?
Members Love Exclusivity – Why Not Bring That to Your Website?
At the very least – a top notch “members only” section of your website should be the highlight of your website. However, make sure you give non-members a preview of what’s inside the members only area. You wouldn’t want to buy a car without a test drive, right? So make sure you give them some kind of glimpse into the private side of your website.
Social Media is a Basically an Online Private Club
Although the typical social media website is free, there are still barriers to entry – making them not entirely accessible to the world. So in essence, they can still be called a “private” club for those privileged enough to have access. A great golf course website that integrates course information and the social connection aspect is a no-brainer!
Steps to Take Right Now
If you want to start taking action right now and start building a virtual connection between all of your members you have several options.
The Free Version: A private Facebook fan page. Free to create and only allows access to those that are invited.
Something You Might Already Have, but Don’t Use: A members only section of your website. Does this include a forum for asking questions? Maybe a message board for members to interact? How about a directory of all the members so they can reach out to one another? Make sure to keep this portion of your website up to date!
A Step Up From Other Private Clubs: Let Golf Web Design build a social networking addition to your website. Members can keep their own profile, add pictures, make “friends”, send private messages, and more. Studies suggest that websites that require memberships are visited twice as much as those without. We’ll help to start building a virtual community that adds value to your private club’s membership.